Sierra Designs Cyclone ECO Jacket
Test Series by Raymond Estrella
February 14, 2009
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Orange County, California, USA
6' 3" (1.91 m)
200 lb (90.70 kg)
I have been backpacking for over 30 years, all over California, and in many of the western states and Minnesota. I hike year-round, and average 500+ miles (800+ km) per year. I have made a move to lightweight gear, and smaller volume packs. I start early and hike hard so as to enjoy the afternoons exploring. I usually take a freestanding tent and enjoy hot meals at night. If not hiking solo I am usually with my wife Jenn or brother-in-law Dave.
Manufacturer: Sierra Designs
Web site: www.sierradesigns.com
Product: Cyclone Jacket
Year manufactured: 2008
MSRP: $149.95 (US)
Size: XLarge, also available in Small, Medium, Large and XXLarge
Weight listed N/A:
Actual weight:19.7 oz (0.56 kg)
Color tested: Midnight Blue, also available in Black, Craisen and Gris (seen below)
|Image courtesy of Sierra Designs|
The Sierra Designs (SD) Cyclone ECO Jacket (hereafter referred to as the Cyclone or jacket) is a hard shell jacket made to take on tough weather and conditions. It is made with quite a few "green" materials and processes. I will quote what SD emailed us about it.
"The Cyclone ECO Jacket is Sierra Designs flagship jacket built with green materials. It uses PVC-free seam tape, solvent-free waterproof breathable laminate, and recycled face fabrics to reduce the use of fresh water (our most precious resource) and harmful chemicals during the production process. It is designed to use green materials without sacrificing performance"
Please note: my jacket differs from the description on the web site. It does not have the Fast Pack Hood, referred to there. Also the jacket I received does not say ECO on it anywhere. It does say Cyclone in many places. Everything else in this review is from the material attached to the coat being tested.
The jacket is made from Drizone Green 2.5L. It uses a waterproof laminate (one layer) bonded to double ripstop polyester (second layer) that has a raised textured layer that is literally printed on the surface inside the pants. (This is the half layer of the 2.5) The raised print acts as a conduit to allow moisture in the form of condensation escape through the pores of the laminate layer. Otherwise my skin would be resting right on the laminate, possibly clogging its breathability.
The raised part is said to have a "dry touch back". While it is much less plastic-y feeling than most of the 2.5L fabrics I have used (I have three others) it is not the driest feeling, but it is a close second place. I really like that as it makes a big difference to me when I wear it over short sleeved shirts during summer rain storms.
All seams have been taped to make it extra impervious to water.
The hood is made in a three-panel style that I find much more comfortable than other types. It has two side adjustments to snug it up around the face. This is done by pulling down on a draw string at the bottom of my neck area that runs through cord locks near my jaw. The hood will tighten around my skull by pulling a draw string that loops through a double cord lock at the back of my head. The grommets that this cord runs through is protected from the elements by a shingle of material. This can be seen at the right.
A blue nylon YKK zipper opens and closes the front of the Cyclone. The zipper is backed by a 1 in (2.5 cm) nylon storm flap that curls over at the top to provide a protected parking place for the zipper when fully zipped up. The last 6 in (15 cm) of the storm flap is covered with micro fleece to keep my face from having cold nylon against it.
Inside the Cyclone are two mesh faced pockets. A higher one on the right side closes with a vertical zipper. This pocket has a small "button hole" that allows an MP3 player's cord to be threaded through.
On the other side of the coat, near the bottom is non-closable pocket. This pocket has a tag inside with the laundering instructions. It is suggested to machine wash cold, tumble dry low, no iron, bleach or dry-cleaning. The pocket has a large metric/imperial conversion chart sewn on the mesh face as can be seen here.
On the outside of the Cyclone a good sized chest pocket is protected by a YKK Aquaguard zipper.
Finishing the assortment of pockets are the two hand pockets that have storm-flap protected conventional zippers. Inside these pockets a draw cord allows the bottom of the coat to be pulled tight to my body to keep wind out. To loosen it again the cord locks can be found inside the Cyclone down near the hem-line by the front zipper.
All of the pockets are made by welding another piece of the Drizone Green 2.5L fabric onto the body. This way there are no stitches actually piercing the body of the Cyclone. But where the pocket is there are now two layers of Drizone Green 2.5L. I expect that this will impact breathability in these areas.
Of great importance to me are the 15 in (38 cm) long armpit vents, or pit-zips as I refer to them. They also use conventional zippers protected by nylon storm-flaps. The zippers are double-ended to allow opening from either end, or both ends should the need arise.
All the zippers have narrow plastic pulls to facilitate use with gloves on.
I really like the way the sleeves are made. They are gusseted for greater mobility and the seams are Raglan style, which keeps them off the top of the shoulder. The less seams under my backpack straps the better as far as I am concerned. The sleeves end with a combination of Velcro and elastic around the cuffs.
The jacket seems very well made. I find no defects in the manufacture of it. I will be putting it to immediate use day-hiking in Hawaii next week, followed by backpacking and day-hiking in California and Minnesota once I return.
The Cyclone has been along on the following trips.
Dave and I went up to the peak of San Gorgonio via the Dollar lake trail as Dave has never been that way. It had rained the day before and they were calling for below-freezing temps so we figured we may see snow or ice. It was 35 F (1.7 C) when we started at an altitude of 6880 ft (2097 m). At the summit it was 31 F (-0.6 C) and the wind chill was registering at 17 F (-8 C). We went 23.2 miles (37 km).
Jenn and I went to the Ortega Candy Store trailhead and did the Bear Canyon/Bear Ridge loop in the San Mateo Wilderness. 6.8 miles (11 km) in temps to about 80 F (27 C) on up and down trails that were either sandy or rocky. We had 1100 ft (335 m) of elevation gain and loss.
Dave and I went 27 miles (43 km) on the PCT from Green Valley to Vasquez Rocks This hike saw 5000 ft (1524 m) of gain as we went over three passes in temperatures started at 43 F and climbed to 70 F (6 to 21 C). The terrain was dirt, scree or rock.
Dave and I spent two days in the Tehachapi Mountains just south of Sequoia National Forest. The temps were between 35 and 66 F (2 to 19 C). We went 42 miles (68 km). We had to carry all our water so my pack weight was 35 lb (15.9 kg) starting out.
Jenn and I celebrated New Years Eve by spending the night in Round Valley in Mount San Jacinto State Park. We snowshoed 6 miles (10 km) and stayed at an elevation of 9100 ft (2775 m) on 5 ft (1.5 m) of snow pack. The temps ran from 40 to 22 F (4 to -6 C). Thankfully there was no wind to speak of.
The most enjoyable use was as a rain coat in Hawaii on the big island. Jenn and I spent six days hiking to snorkeling or scenic spots that are hard to get to without a boat. The hikes were anything from 0.5 to 3 miles (1 to 5 km) each way. Temps were between 76 and 82 F (24 to 28 C) and terrain was dirt, (lots of) lava, and sand. We also walked 2 to 3 miles (3 to 5 km) into town for dinner each day. We saw rain just about every afternoon or early evening.
But it has seen much more use in Minnesota where I have used it as a rain coat in rain, freezing rain, winter mix and snow. With lots and lots of wind!
As is often the case when testing rain gear in southern California I can go a long time without actually needing a rain coat. We tried going to Mount San Gorgonio the day after a storm hoping (yes we are strange) to see a little weather. Alas while it was very cold the precipitation was past by the time we got there.
On that trip I needed to break it out at10500 ft (3200 m) elevation as the temp dropped to 32 F (0 C). While I am warm blooded enough to hike at that temperature without a jackets the strong winds I encountered there made for a 22 F (-6 C) wind chill that went right through the mid-weight base layer I was wearing.
The Cyclone worked great. As soon as I started climbing again I started overheating from the exertion. A quick yank on the pit zips solved that problem.
Once at the summit (seen in the picture above) it was even colder and windier. I zipped everything up and pulled the hood on to conserve warmth.
In Hawaii I got to use the coat on most afternoons. I needed to keep all the zippers open though as it is quite warm even though it is raining. As I saw last year the weather there will say, "No way!" to the idea of "breathable" fabrics. It was the same with the Drizone Green 2.5L. If I have to do much walking in the rain there I end up just about as wet inside as out side. One funny thing that happened while we were there was a very heavy rain fall that hit at 2:00 AM one night. The water was coming down so hard that it looked like a fire hose where it came down the valley of our roof. Jenn (who is testing a rain coat also) wanted to get up and go out in it to see how the coats (and pants in my case) held up to that rate of rain fall. I said that there is a limit to my desire to test thoroughly. Sorry Sierra Designs, maybe next time…
The place that the Cyclone has got a workout though has been in Minnesota (MN) where it was subject to all kinds of weather including the worst blizzard I have seen since moving to the Fargo/Moorhead area. It was -12 F (-24 C) with a wind chill of -39 F (-39 C). I did not have any zippers open for this one. I wore the Cyclone over a Sitka Gear Core Zip-T mid-weight base layer (see report) and a Marmot Down Sweater (see review). This made a remarkably warm combination, much warmer than the North Face parka I normally wear when I am in MN.
I wore it in a snow storm at Ottertail Lake MN this way too. It has performed admirably in all instances.
Later I wore it the same way in California replacing the Marmot Down Sweater with a Mountain Hardwear Phantom Jacket (see review). It worked quite well as a snow shell for backpacking. The only problem I would see for using it for any full-on winter trip would be the fact that I can't get a liter water bottle in the inside pocket, something that is often necessary to do. (I did carry a small bottle in it.)
I have carried the Cyclone, along with the matching pants and a pack-cover, in a sil-nylon stuff sack when overnight backpacking. On day hikes I just shove it into my pack for most trips or in the front shove-it pocket when I think I will need it quickly. To date there are no signs of wear.
I leave with a picture of it in Mt San Jacinto State Park in the snow.
Quick & Dirty, Nitty Gritty
While the water-shedding abilities of the Cyclone is quite good, the breathability is questionable. The hook and loop patches along the storm flap are irritating . Please read on for the details.
I went on an overnight to San Jacinto State Park chasing storms; they got stuck on the other side of the mountain though. I stayed in Round Valley with a side trip to Tamarack. The temperature got down to 20 F (-7 C) and there was a lot of wind. Starting pack weight was around 37 lb (16.8 kg)
A week later I succeeded in finding a storm in San Jacinto State Park. I had to put the jacket on the minute I stepped out of my truck as it was raining hard at the lower elevations. This time I stayed in Tamarack at 9120 ft (2775 m) elevation where it dumped snow on me as I set up my tent, stopping 10 minutes after I got everything inside. It started back up again at 11:00 PM. I was on five to six ft (2 m) of snow when I made camp. The temperature was 22 F when I stopped, 19 F when I made dinner and 17 F at 9:30 PM, the last time I looked at it. (-6, -7, & -8 C) There was a lot of wind in the early morning hours. I hiked 7 mi (11 km), all on snowshoes.
I also wore it on a backpacking trip with Jenn to San Mateo Wilderness in Cleveland National Forest. We did a 9 mile (14.5 km) first day with an all up-hill 3.5 mile (5.6 km) hike back the next day. It hit 75 F (24 C) for a high but felt hotter in the sun, and got down to a chilly 28 F (-2 C) at night. High elevation was 2000 ft (610 m) with a total of 1300 ft (400 m) of elevation gain and loss.
Lastly I wore it on a 15 mi (24 km) winter peak-bagging trip to the Mt Baldy area. We summited Timber Mountain, Telegraph Peak and an unnamed peak in one day. Conditions ranged from dirt trails with some snow on the approach to ice fields, hard frozen ground and rock. I did not carry a thermometer but will guess the temps to be from 30 F to 60 F (-1 to 16 C).
We have had a pretty wet end of winter in Southern California which has been great for this test. Besides the trips taken with the Cyclone I have used it for walks I do about 5 days a week.
I have not had any problem with the water-shedding ability of the Drizone Green 2.5L fabric. But I cannot say that it breathes well. Twice I wore it as I walked 4 mi (6.4 km) in the rain. I also wore it in a snow storm at 20 F (-7 C). On all occasion I had the pit zips completely opened to help ventilate, yet after taking the Cyclone off my arms were soaked. To be fair I have never found a waterproof breathable fabric that actually works in hiking situations.
One thing I really do not care for is the hook and loop on the storm flap that protects the zipper. When the coat is unzipped (partially or fully) and I need to bring my hand up to my body to adjust a strap or such the hook and loop on the cuffs attaches itself to that on the storm flap. It gets very irritating.
I did like the protection afforded by the hood and the options for adjusting it. I had some pretty windy conditions during this phase of the test and it was nice to have the hood stay put and keep most of the blowing snow out. I really liked the reinforced brim at those times too. I do wish that it had some way of storing the hood when not needed though instead of just having it wadded between my head and the backpack.
The pit zips have worked great for the entire test. Not once have I had them snag while using them, both with and without a pack on.
It has shown no signs of wear to date. All zippers and the cuffs operate like new. It has been comfortable wearing under a backpack (except for the above mentioned hood thing) and wearing alone.
Because of the timing of this test the Cyclone had to be used as a winter shell more than a rain coat, but it has done quite well in this usage. I would like to thank Sierra Design and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to use it these past four months.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
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